GB2486412A - Universal terminal operable as thin client or docking station - Google Patents

Universal terminal operable as thin client or docking station Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2486412A
GB2486412A GB201021064A GB201021064A GB2486412A GB 2486412 A GB2486412 A GB 2486412A GB 201021064 A GB201021064 A GB 201021064A GB 201021064 A GB201021064 A GB 201021064A GB 2486412 A GB2486412 A GB 2486412A
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United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
interface
terminal apparatus
general purpose
via
data network
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Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Withdrawn
Application number
GB201021064A
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GB201021064D0 (en
Inventor
Adrian Van Den Heever
Scott Tandy
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
Displaylink (UK) Ltd
Displaylink UK Ltd
Original Assignee
Displaylink (UK) Ltd
Displaylink UK Ltd
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
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Publication date
Application filed by Displaylink (UK) Ltd, Displaylink UK Ltd filed Critical Displaylink (UK) Ltd
Priority to GB201021064A priority Critical patent/GB2486412A/en
Publication of GB201021064D0 publication Critical patent/GB201021064D0/en
Publication of GB2486412A publication Critical patent/GB2486412A/en
Application status is Withdrawn legal-status Critical

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F1/00Details not covered by groups G06F3/00 – G06F13/00 and G06F21/00
    • G06F1/16Constructional details or arrangements
    • G06F1/1613Constructional details or arrangements for portable computers
    • G06F1/1632External expansion units, e.g. docking stations

Abstract

A terminal apparatus 10 includes mode select logic 31which selectively configures the terminal in one of a zero/thin client mode and a docking station mode. In thin client mode, processing apparatus 30 uses data network (e.g. Ethernet) interface 22 to communicate with a server by: receiving display data via the data network interface, outputting display data to video interface 23 for connecting to display devices 13, receiving user inputs via user input interface 24, for e.g. keyboard 14, mouse 15, and forwarding the user inputs to the server. In docking station mode, the processing apparatus uses a general purpose interface 28, e.g. a USB interface, to communicate with a host computing device 80, receive display data via the general purpose interface and output display data to the video interface; receive user inputs via the user input interface and forward the user inputs to the host device via the general purpose interface. In the docking station mode, the terminal apparatus reconfigures and reports itself as a composite USB device so that the data network interface 22 appears to host 80 as a USB-Ethernet bridge. Audio interface 26 connects to audio input 17 and output 16 devices.

Description

DESCRIPTION

UNIVERSAL TERMINAL

This invention relates to a multi-function universal terminal apparatus for use in a client-server network, such as a networked office environment.

There is interest in client-server computing networks where the clients are ultra-thin clients, or zero clients. This type of client has relatively limited io processing power. Functionality that would typically be performed on traditional "fat" or "thin" client devices is performed by another entity in the network, such as a server. This type of architecture has the advantages of reliably and securely storing data at the server, controlling access to the server-supported services and reduce the need to install and regularly upgrade multiple client is devices, and provides for very cost effective client devices.

In some architectures, a server maintains an instance of a virtual machine, performing all of the operating system and application layer processing that would typically be performed at a client device, and generates image data representing the desktop display to be displayed at the client device. The ultra-thin or zero clients are only required to receive the image data from the server, display the image data, and return user inputs to the server. Currently, terminals are manufactured specifically for use as zero/thin client devices.

It is therefore an object of the invention to improve upon the prior art.

A first aspect of the invention provides a terminal apparatus comprising: a data network interface for connecting to a data network; a user input interface for connecting to a user input device; a video interface for connecting to one or more display devices; a general purpose interface and a processing apparatus. The terminal apparatus further comprises control logic which is arranged to selectively configure the terminal apparatus in one of: (i) a zero/thin client mode, wherein the processing apparatus is arranged to use the data network interface to communicate with a server by: receiving display data via the data network interface and outputting display data to the video interface; receiving user inputs via the user input interface and forwarding the user inputs to the server via the data network interface; and (ii) a docking station mode, wherein the processing apparatus is arranged to: use the general purpose interface to communicate with a host computing device; receive display data via the general purpose interface and output display data to the video interface; receive user inputs via the user input interface and forward the user inputs to the host computing device via the general purpose interface.

The present invention seeks to provide an alternative terminal apparatus. An advantage of the improved terminal apparatus is that the same terminal apparatus has multiple functions and can be selectively used as a zero/thin client device, for a user who lack a computing device of their own, is and as a docking station for a user who has a portable computing device. The terminal apparatus is advantageous in an organisation which uses "hot desking". Hot desking is a practice where employees of an organisation are not individually allocated a desk in the organisation's premises. The organisation provides a pool of desks for use by employees when they need to work at the premises. Conventionally, the organisation would need to provide separate desks with terminals for those employees who do not own a computing device and desks equipped with a docking station for those employees who do own a computing device. With the terminal apparatus according to embodiments of the invention, a universally equipped desk with a single terminal apparatus can be selectively used as a zero/thin client device, for a user who lacks a computing device of their own, and as a docking station for a user who has a portable computing device that they wish to use. This has advantages of avoiding the need for multiple types of terminal and docking apparatus at an organisation's premises, and an associated reduction in the amount of physical space and cost.

Advantageously, in the docking station mode the processing apparatus is further arranged to receive user inputs via the user input interface and forward the user inputs to the host computing device via the general purpose interface.

Advantageously, in the docking station mode, the processing apparatus is further arranged to bridge communication between the host computing device and the server.

Advantageously, the control logic is arranged to detect connection of a device to the general purpose interface which is capable of acting as a host computing device and configure the apparatus in the docking station mode in response to the detection.

Advantageously, the terminal apparatus further comprises an audio interface for connecting to an audio device and, in the zero/thin client mode, the processing apparatus is arranged to forward audio data between the data network interface and the audio interface; and, in the docking station mode, the processing apparatus is arranged to forward audio data between the is general purpose interface and the audio interface.

Another aspect of the invention provides a method of operating a terminal apparatus comprising a data network interface for connecting to a data network, a user input interface for connecting to a user input device, a video interface for connecting to a display device, and a general purpose interface, the method comprising selectively configuring the terminal apparatus to operate in one of: (i) a zero/thin client mode, in which the terminal apparatus uses the data network interface to communicate with a server by: receiving display data via the data network interface and outputting display data to the video interface; receiving user inputs via the user input interface and forwarding the user inputs to the server via the data network interface; and (ii) a docking station mode, wherein the terminal apparatus: uses the general purpose interface to communicate with a host computing device; receives display data via the general purpose interface and output display data to the video interface; receives user inputs via the user input interface and forwards the user inputs to the host computing device via the general purpose interface.

The functionality described here can be implemented in hardware, software executed by a processing apparatus, or by a combination of hardware and software. The processing apparatus can comprise a computer, a processor, a state machine, a logic array or any other suitable processing apparatus. The processing apparatus can be a general-purpose processor which executes software to cause the general-purpose processor to perform the required tasks, or the processing apparatus can be dedicated to perform the required functions. Another aspect of the invention provides machine-readable instructions (software) which, when executed by a processor, perform any of the described methods. The machine-readable instructions may be stored on an electronic memory device, hard disk, optical disk or other io machine-readable storage medium. The machine-readable instructions can be downloaded to the storage medium via a network connection.

Embodiments of the invention will be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which: is Figure 1 shows a client-server network architecture with zero/thin clients; Figure 2 shows terminal apparatus according to an embodiment of the invention; Figure 3 shows the terminal apparatus of Figure 2 configured to operate in zero/thin client mode; Figure 4 shows the terminal apparatus of Figure 2 configured to operate as a docking station; Figure 5 shows operation of mode select logic in the terminal apparatus of Figures 2-4; and Figure 6 shows an alternative form of the terminal apparatus of Figure 2.

Figure 1 shows an example of a client-server network comprising multiple client devices 10, a server 50 and a data network 40. The data network 40 can be a Local Area Network (LAN), such as a corporate network, or a Wide Area Network (WAN). Server 50 also provides access to an external network 60 such as the Internet.

One of the client devices 10 is shown in detail. A client 10 comprises a terminal apparatus 11 connected 12 to the network 40. User input devices such as a keyboard 14 and mouse 15 or pointing device are connected to the terminal apparatus 11. One or more displays 13 are also connected to the terminal apparatus 11.

Server 50 comprises processing resources 51 and storage 52. It will be understood that the server resources can be centrally located (as shown) or distributed across the network 40. In an advantageous embodiment, server 50 maintains an instance of a virtual machine 53 for each client device 10. Server 50 performs all of the operating system and application layer processing that would typically be performed at a client device and generates image data representing the desktop display to be displayed at the client device. Server 50 forwards 55 the image data and audio data for a client 10 across network 40 to the client 10. Client 10 returns 56 any user inputs and other return data across is network 40 to the server 50.

Figure 2 shows terminal apparatus 11 in accordance with an embodiment of the invention. The apparatus 11 has a plurality of interfaces 22, 23, 24, 26, 28. A data network interface 22 is provided for connecting 12 to the LAN 40. A video interface 23 is provided for connecting to a display 13A.

There can be multiple displays 13A, 13B. An audio interface 26 is provided for connecting to an audio output device 16 (e.g. headphones, loudspeaker) and an audio input device 17 (e.g. microphone). A user input interface 24, such as PS/2, is provided for connecting to user input devices, such as a keyboard 14, mouse 15 or other pointing device. A general purpose interface 28, such as Universal Serial Bus (USB) or IEEE 1394, is provided for connecting to peripheral devices and/or a host computing device. Universal Serial Bus (USB) has two types of interface: device and host. Typically, separate ports are provided and these are shown in Figure 2 as host port(s) 28A and device port 28B. The host ports 28A are ports for connecting to USB devices, typically peripherals. For any USB devices connected to these ports 28A, terminal apparatus 11 will "appear" to have the role of host. The device port 28A is for connecting to a USB host device, such as a host computing device like a laptop, notebook or smart phone.

The terminal apparatus 11 of Figure 2 can be configured to operate as either: (i) a zero/thin client terminal or (ii) a docking station for a computing device. Each of these configurations will now be described.

Figure 3 shows the terminal apparatus 11 of Figure 2, configured to operate as a thin/zero client terminal. In this configuration, apparatus 11 receives 71 image data and audio data from server 50 via interface 22 and returns 72 user inputs received from input devices 14, 15 and any audio data to the server 50 via interface 22. Processing apparatus 30 receives the image data 71 and outputs the image data in a form 74 compatible with a display 13A, such as Video Graphics Array (VGA), Digital Visual Interface (DVI) or High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI). Multiple displays 13A, 13B can be connected. Advantageously, processing apparatus 30 has a frame buffer 33 is for storing image data received from the server 50. In the case of multiple displays 13A, 13B, there is a frame buffer per display. Processing apparatus can also receive audio data from server 50 and outputs the audio data from audio interface 26 in a form 75 compatible with audio device 16, such as an analogue audio signal. Audio interface 26 receives an audio signal 76 from an audio input device 17, converts the audio signal into digital form (if necessary) and forwards to processing apparatus 30 for forwarding 72 to server 50.

Peripheral devices 70 can be connected to host ports 28A of the general purpose interface (e.g. USB) 28. Typically, a user may connect a mass storage device such as a USB memory stick to upload data to the server 50 or download server from the server 50.

Figure 3 shows the terminal apparatus 11 of Figure 2, configured as a thin/zero client. An alternative term is a remote connected terminal. In this configuration, apparatus 11 receives 71 image data and audio data from server 50 via interface 22 and returns 72 user inputs received from input devices 14, 15 to the server 50 via interface 22. Various protocols can be used, such as Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), Remote FX (RFX), Network In-Video Out (NiVo). Processing apparatus 30 receives the image data and outputs the image data, in a form 74 compatible with a display 13A, such as Video Graphics Array (VGA), Digital Visual Interface (DVI) or High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI). Multiple displays 13A, 13B can be connected.

Advantageously, processing apparatus 30 has a frame buffer for storing image data received from the server 50. Processing apparatus 30 receives audio data from server 50 and outputs the audio data from audio interface 26 in a form 75 compatible with audio device 16, such as an analogue audio signal.

Audio interface 26 receives an audio signal 76 from an audio input device 17, converts the audio signal into digital form (if necessary) and forwards to io processing apparatus 30 for forwarding 72 to server 50. Peripheral devices can be connected to host ports 28A of the general purpose interface (e.g. USB) 28. Typically, a user may connect a mass storage device 70, such as a USB memory stick, to the terminal apparatus 11 to upload data to the server or download server from the server 50.

is Figure 4 shows the terminal apparatus 11 of Figure 2, configured as a docking station for a host computing device 80, such as a laptop or notebook computer. The docking station connects to various input/output devices 13A, 14, 15. Once connected to the docking station, the user can use the input/ouput devices 13-17 as if they were directly connected to the computing device 80, thereby allowing the user of the computing device 80 to interact more easily with the device 80. The docking station connects to: a full-size keyboard 14, which is typically larger and/or better quality than the keyboard 81 of the computing device 80; mouse 15; at least one display 13A which is typically physically larger and/or higher resolution than the display 82 of the computing device 80; audio devices 16, 17. Display 13A can be used in addition to, or instead of, the display 82 of the computing device 80. it will be understood that a docking station does not have to be connected to all of the input/output devices listed above. Advantageously, the computing device 80 connects to a device port 28B of the general purpose network interface 28 via a single cable, thus making it very quick and easy for a user to dock and un-dock their computing device 80.

In this configuration, apparatus 11 can also connect to network 40 via the network interface 22. However, the purpose of the connection is different from that in Figure 3. In this configuration, interface 22 bridges data between the host computing device and the network 40. Data received 93 at the apparatus 11 from the host computing device 80, and destined for the network 40, is forwarded 92 to the network 40. Similarly, data received 91 at the apparatus 11 from the network 40, and destined for the computing device 80, is forwarded 94 to the host computing device 80. Processing apparatus 30 receives image data and outputs the image data, in a form 95 compatible with display 13A. In this configuration, the image data is received from the computing device 80. Advantageously, processing apparatus 30 has a frame buffer for storing image data received from the computing device 80.

Processing apparatus 30 receives audio data from computing device 80 and outputs the audio data from audio interface 26 in a form 96 compatible with is audio device 16, such as an analogue audio signal. Audio interface 26 receives an audio signal 97 from an audio input device 17, converts the audio signal into digital form (if necessary) and forwards to processing apparatus 30 for forwarding 94 to the computing device 80. Peripheral devices can be connected to the host ports 28A of the general purpose interface (e.g. USB) 28.

Details of USB operation of the terminal apparatus will now be described. When a computing device 80 connects to the device port 28B of the USB interface 28, the terminal apparatus reconfigures as, and reports itself to be, a composite USB device, comprising the video interface 23; network interface 22; audio interface 26; keyboard 14 and mouse 15, connected as a USB docking station. in this configuration, the data network (e.g. Ethernet) interface 22 is reconfigured to appear to the host computing device 80 as a USB-Ethernet bridge device. This allows the host computing device 80 to connect to the corporate network 40. This along with the audio interface 26 and the PS2 connected keyboard 14 and mouse 15 appear as a Compound USB device and the USB Dock Software on the host computing device 80 treats the compound collections appropriately, i.e. as a collection of USB devices plugged into a host computing device 80.

The computing device connected to the terminal apparatus can also be a mobile phone (e.g. smart phone) 180 or other portable computing device.

The connection to the general purpose interface (e.g. USB) 28 can provide a power supply to the device 180, which can be used to charge the device 180.

Mode select logic 31 controls selection of the operating mode at the terminal apparatus 11 as either: (i) zero/thin client or (ii) docking station. Mode select logic 31 detects connection of a computing device 80 at an interface which is capable of acting as a host computing device. Advantageously, the apparatus 11 defaults to operation in one of the modes, based on a factory setting or a user-defined preference. Figure 5 shows operation of the mode select logic 31. The logic starts at step 200. This step can select the default mode (i.e. one of: zero/thin client mode and docking station mode). Step 201 is detects if a computing device is connected to the apparatus 11, which is capable of performing as a host computing device.

If a host computing device is not detected, the method proceeds to step 202 and the terminal apparatus ills configured to operate in zero/thin client mode. The terminal apparatus ii uses the data network interface to communicate with a server. The terminal apparatus 11 receives display data via the data network interface and outputs display data to the video interface.

The terminal apparatus 11 receives user inputs and forwards them to the server via the data network interface.

If a host computing device is detected the method proceeds to step 203 and the terminal apparatus 11 is configured to operate in docking station mode. The terminal apparatus Ii uses the general purpose interface to communicate with the host computing device. The terminal apparatus 11 receives display data via the general purpose interface and outputs display data to the video interface. The terminal apparatus ii receives user inputs and forwards them to the host computing device via the general purpose interface.

The terminal apparatus II bridges data between the host computing device and data network.

In Figures 2 to 4, there is a dedicated interface 24 for user input devices. Figure 6 shows an alternative arrangement, where user input devices 14, 15 are connected to additional host ports of the general purpose interface 28. The additional ports are conveniently provided by a hub 35.

In Figures 2 to 4 and 6 user input devices 14, 15 are connected to the user input interface 24 or general purpose interface 28. One or more of the displays 13A, 13B can comprise a touchscreen which serves as the user input device, or as an additional user input device. Inputs from the touchscreen are received at a user input interface 24 which is separate from, or forms part of, the video interface 23.

The terminal apparatus 11 can provide operating instructions to a user by outputting them via the video interface 23 to display 13A, e.g. "press cctI-alt-del> to connect to your desktop session or plug the USB cable into your PC,,.

is The terminal apparatus 11 can include an option to download dock drivers (e.g. USB drivers) to a PC that does not have them installed. This can be offered by outputting instructions via the video interface 23 to display 13A, and can suggest a specific keypress to initiate download of the drivers.

Modifications and other embodiments of the disclosed invention will come to mind to one skilled in the art having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings.

Therefore, it is to be understood that the invention is not to be limited to the specific embodiments disclosed and that modifications and other embodiments are intended to be included within the scope of this disclosure. Although specific terms may be employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.

Claims (11)

  1. CLAIMS1. A terminal apparatus comprising: a data network interface for connecting to a data network; a user input interface for connecting to a user input device; a video interface for connecting to one or more display devices; a general purpose interface; a processing apparatus; control logic which is arranged to selectively configure the terminal io apparatus in one of: a zero/thin client mode, wherein the processing apparatus is arranged to use the data network interface to communicate with a server by: receiving display data via the data network interface and outputting display data to the video interface; is receiving user inputs via the user input interface and forwarding the user in puts to the server via the data network interface; a docking station mode, wherein the processing apparatus is arranged to: use the general purpose interface to communicate with a host computing device; receive display data via the general purpose interface and output display data to the video interface.
  2. 2. A terminal apparatus according to claim 1 wherein, in the docking station mode, the processing apparatus is further arranged to receive user inputs via the user input interface and forward the user inputs to the host computing device via the general purpose interface.
  3. 3. A terminal apparatus according to claim 1 or 2 wherein, in the docking station mode, the processing apparatus is further arranged to bridge communication between the host computing device and the server.
  4. 4. A terminal apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the control logic is arranged to detect connection of a device to the general purpose interface which is capable of acting as a host computing device and configure the apparatus in the docking station mode in response to the detection.
  5. 5. A terminal apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims further comprising an audio interface for connecting to an audio device and wherein: in the zero/thin client mode, the processing apparatus is arranged to forward audio data between the data network interface and the audio interface; and in the docking station mode, the processing apparatus is arranged to forward audio data between the general purpose interface and the audio is interface.
  6. 6. A terminal apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the user input interface comprises part of the general purpose interface.
  7. 7. A terminal apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the data network interface is Ethernet.
  8. 8. A terminal apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the user input interface is one of: Universal Serial Bus (USB), PS/2.
  9. 9. A terminal apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims wherein the general purpose interface is one of: Universal Serial Bus (USB), IEEE 1394.
  10. 10. A method of operating a terminal apparatus comprising a data network interface for connecting to a data network, a user input interface for connecting to a user input device, a video interface for connecting to a display device, and a general purpose interface, the method comprising selectively configuring the terminal apparatus to operate in one of: a zero/thin client mode, in which the terminal apparatus uses the data network interface to communicate with a server by: receiving display data via the data network interface and outputting display data to the video interface; io receiving user inputs via the user input interface and forwarding the user inputs to the server via the data network interface; a docking station mode, wherein the terminal apparatus: uses the general purpose interface to communicate with a host computing device; is receives display data via the general purpose interface and output display data to the video interface.
  11. 11. A method according to claim 10 wherein, in the docking station mode, the terminal apparatus receives user inputs via the user input interface and forwards the user inputs to the host computing device via the general purpose interface.
GB201021064A 2010-12-13 2010-12-13 Universal terminal operable as thin client or docking station Withdrawn GB2486412A (en)

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Cited By (1)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
CN102752379A (en) * 2012-06-28 2012-10-24 浪潮(山东)电子信息有限公司 New-generation self-service cloud terminal based on zero processing and zero storage

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Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US5878211A (en) * 1996-12-20 1999-03-02 N C R Corporation Multi-functional retail terminal and associated method
US20050013103A1 (en) * 2003-07-17 2005-01-20 Adrian Chandley Multipurpose docking apparatus for a mobile computer
US20080155159A1 (en) * 2006-12-22 2008-06-26 Rivas Mario A Integrated communication and information processing system
US20080273297A1 (en) * 1999-04-07 2008-11-06 Rajendra Kumar Portable computing, communication and entertainment device with central processor carried in a detachable portable device

Patent Citations (4)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US5878211A (en) * 1996-12-20 1999-03-02 N C R Corporation Multi-functional retail terminal and associated method
US20080273297A1 (en) * 1999-04-07 2008-11-06 Rajendra Kumar Portable computing, communication and entertainment device with central processor carried in a detachable portable device
US20050013103A1 (en) * 2003-07-17 2005-01-20 Adrian Chandley Multipurpose docking apparatus for a mobile computer
US20080155159A1 (en) * 2006-12-22 2008-06-26 Rivas Mario A Integrated communication and information processing system

Cited By (1)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
CN102752379A (en) * 2012-06-28 2012-10-24 浪潮(山东)电子信息有限公司 New-generation self-service cloud terminal based on zero processing and zero storage

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